As per the norm, my lunch hour coincided with CBC Crosstalk.
The guest today was comedian, turned historian, St. John’s native Greg Malone. The topic was his new book and the grand conspiracy, that he is milking, that resulted in Newfoundland becoming the bookend for the Canadian federation.
“Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders” goes where a few author’s have gone before. Notably academic Dr. John Fitzgerald’s Newfoundland at the Crossroads Documents on Confederation with Canada and Historian/politician Gene Long’s Suspended State - Newfoundland Before Canada.
I thought, hoped, anticipated that Malone had found a silver bullet – proof positive of the conspiracy preached to us since the days of Peter Cashin, that the vote was rigged.
Certainly, there can be no doubt that England and Canada had a desired result. Volumes of diplomatic letters, private correspondence, official and unofficial correspondence has become available over the last ten years.
In retrospect, the frankness of some of the letters between policy mandarins, businesses leaders, religious leaders and leading citizens of the U.K, the United States, Canada and Newfoundland is insightful.
The discussions take place in the private medium of the time – letter writing. As a bit of romantic type, the tone, style and artistry of these notes appeal to me on both an intellectual and emotional level. Many of these letters are the modern equivalent of private e-mail or government briefing notes.
Probably the most informative of the three aforementioned texts is Newfoundland at the Crossroads Documents on Confederation with Canada. It is well researched, well written and unpretesive. The chronological evolution of England’s Newfoundland problem is provided with an academic sophistication that is lacking in the romantic conspirators texts.
There can no doubt that the UK influenced the outcome of the 1948 referenda. They did not cook the books or salt the ballot boxes. They were subtle, with the notable exception of ensuring Confederation was placed on the ballot.
I remain convinced that the pig farmer socialist from Gambo who emerged as the leading confederate was undesirable to the so called conspirators. He was uncouth, not cut from the proper cloth. An undereducated peasant.
However without Smallwood, and the team of journalists and dedicated socio-economic pioneers who fought the established order the result would have been quite different.
These zealots of change had not forgotten why and how the province was stripped of its constitutional democracy; Who had not forgotten the abject poverty associated with the mismanagement of the colony’s scarce resources; Who had not forgotten the corrupt politics of the pre-1933 period; Who had not forgotten the diseases that killed a generation of young men and women; Who reminded the public of all they had to look forward with a return to Responsible Government as it was.
The yearning for the old country was defeated in a vote, in which Newfoundlander’s participated in. The decision was not made in White Hall, at Government House or in the Langelvin Block. It was made right here.
There is not a shred of new insight, there is nothing but a treatise that attempts to piece together popular myths to create a romantic fable in time for Christmas sales.
Truly, there is nothing new to read here.